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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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680. BANKRUPTCY, English Law of.—
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680. BANKRUPTCY, English Law of.—

The British statute excepts expressly farmers,
graziers, drovers,
as such though they
buy to sell again. This bill has no such exception.
The British adjudications exempt
the buyers and sellers of bank stock, government
paper, &c. What feelings guided the
draughtsman [of this bill] in adhering to his
original in this case and then departing from
it in the other? The British courts adjudge
that any artists may be bankrupts if the materials
of their art are bought, such as shoemakers,
blacksmiths, carpenters, &c. Will the
body of our artists desire to be brought within
the vortex of this law? It will follow as a
consequence that the master who has an artist
of this kind in his family, whether hired, indentured,
or a slave, to serve the purposes of
his farm or family, but who may at leisure
time do something for his neighbors also, May
be a bankrupt. The British law makes a departure
from the realm, i.e. out of the mediation
of British law, an act of bankruptcy.
This bill makes a departure from the State
wherein he resides
(though into a neighboring
one where the laws of the United States
run equally), an act of bankruptcy. The
commissioners may enter houses, break open
doors, chests &c. Are we really ripe for
this? Is that spirit of independence and sovereignty,
which a man feels in his own house,
and which Englishmen felt when they denominated
their houses their castles, to be absolutely
subdued, and is it expedient that it
should be subdued? The lands of the bankrupt
are to be taken, sold. Is not this a predominant
question between the General and
State legislatures? Is commerce so much the
basis of the existence of the United States as
to call for a bankrupt law? On the contrary,
are we not almost agricultural? Should not all
laws be made with a view essentially to the
poor husbandman? When laws are wanting
for particular descriptions of other callings,
should not the husbandman be carefully excused
from their operation, and preserved under
that of the general system only, which
general system is fitted to the condition of
the husbandman? [42]
Notes on the Bankrupt Bill. Washington ed. ix, 431. Ford ed., vi, 145.
(Dec. 1792)


Page 73

This paper is without date. Jefferson gave it this
caption: “Extempore thoughts and doubts on very
superficially running over the bankrupt bill.” A
bankrupt bill, introduced in the House in December,
1792, by W. L. Smith, is probably the one referred to.—Editor.